Connecticut is a so-called blue state, that used to be purple, and a long time ago, red. Constitution State voters who went for Ronald Reagan, but spurned Bill Clinton for Jerry Brown always seem to have a trick up their sleeves. Democrats have controlled the state legislature for decades, yet last won the governorship in 1986. The congressional delegation is all Democrats right now, but it wasn’t that long ago that Republicans held three of the five seats. We last elected a Republican senator in 1982, when Lowell Weicker was re-elected, and the last time a Republican beat a Democrat for an open senate seat was 40 years ago, in 1970, when Weicker was chosen by voters to replace Thomas Dodd, who at one point in his career lost to Prescott Bush, grandfather of former President George W. Bush, who lost the 2000 primary to John McCain. Got all that?
So what kind of state is this anyway? Connecticut remains fiercely independent. According to the Secretary of the State, Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly two to one, but both parties are outnumbered by unaffiliated voters. Senator Joe Lieberman is well aware of that fact.
The most Republican town in the state is New Canaan, where nearly 50% (49.7%) are registered Republicans. Next: Darien at 49.2% Other towns where Republicans make up the largest voting bloc include Madison, Simsbury, New Milford and Suffield.
The place with the highest percentage of registered Democrats? Hartford at 73%. The last time a Republican was elected mayor there was 1969, when Ann Uccello was re-elected. In 2008, 90% of capital city voters went for Barack Obama in the presidential election. It is not surprising, the cities are loaded with registered Democrats. New Haven’s voter rolls are 69.8% Democrat and Bridgeport, 63.3%. The Hartford suburbs of Bloomfield, Canton, and the namesake burbs East Hartford and West Hartford all have more “D”s than “R”s, with Bloomfield being the most Democratic. The Republican suburbs include Avon, Bolton, Granby and the aforementioned Simsbury. Despite their GOP reputations, those four towns all went for Obama two years ago. As population shifts, so do the political makeups of some cities and towns, like fast growing Ellington, which has seen an influx of Republicans.
The key to victory is capturing the unaffiliated voters. Just ask New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, who would be governor now if those independents had stayed home in 2006. Governor Rell won in a landslide taking perceived Democratic strongholds like West Hartford, West Haven and Westport. In fact, DeStefano won only seven cities and towns: Bridgeport, Hartford and his hometown of New Haven, along with New London, Bloomfield, Mansfield and New Britain.
Speaking of the Hardware City, New Britain has far more registered Democrats than Republicans yet has elected and re-elected a GOP mayor, Timothy Stewart. Ditto on the other side of the river in Vernon, where Mayor Jason McCoy has led Republicans to victory despite a disadvantage among registered voters.
That’s what makes these numbers so fascinating and frustrating for campaign strategists and keeps political reporters like me very busy.